Talking Books – Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain

Event Date: 26 May 2011
Room B35, Birkbeck Main Building
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX


Talking Books – Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain

This is the first in a series of public debates and conversations in 2011 about academic books of major importance. This event will revolve around Stefan Collini’s book Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain. On its publication in 2006, the book attracted extensive comment for its analysis of the concept of the intellectual and its exploration of the traditional claim that ‘real’ intellectuals have not existed in Britain (or, more often, England). For this event, four younger scholars from various disciplines will reflect on the significance of the book and its bearing on their own work. In conversation with the author they will move beyond the immediate reception of the book and consider its subject-matter in a series of longer perspectives.

Speakers to include:

  • Stefan Collini (Cambridge)
  • Matthew Beaumont (English, UCL)
  • Joel Isaac (History QMUL)
  • Clarisse Berthezène (Institut Charles V, Université Paris)
  • Jonathan Derbyshire (New Statesman)
  • Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck) Chair

Matthew Beaumont is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at UCL, where he has recently set up a City Centre. He is the author of Utopia Ltd. (2005) and the co-author, with Terry Eagleton, of The Task of the Critic: Terry Eagleton in Dialogue (2009). In addition, he is the editor of Adventures in Realism (2007) and the co-editor of Restless Cities (2010).

Joel Isaac is Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of London. He also currently holds the Balzan-Skinner Lectureship in Modern Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge (Spring 2011). His research focuses on the history of philosophy and the social sciences in the United States.

Jonathan Derbyshire is Culture Editor of the New Statesman. His literary journalism has also appeared in the Financial Times, the Guardian, Prospect and the Times Literary Supplement.

Clarisse Berthezène is a Lecturer (“maître de conférences”) at the University of Paris Diderot. She is the author of Les conservateurs britanniques dans la bataille des idées. Ashridge College, premier think tank conservateur (Presses de sciences po, 2011) and a number of articles on British Conservatism, notably « Creating Conservative Fabians : the Conservative Party, Political Education and the Founding of Ashridge College, 1929-1931 », Past & Present, 182, February 2004, pp. 211-240. Her new book Training Minds for the War of Ideas. The cultural and intellectual politics of Conservatism in the interwar years will be coming out with Manchester University Press.


Introduction by Joanna Bourke.

Order of Speakers:

Stefan Collini

Matthew Beaumont

Joel Isaac

Clarisse Berthezène

Jonathan Derbyshire





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